Orderly succession planned

DS Smith CEO Miles Roberts to retire; profits fall at half-year

Roberts: “We have started the financial year very strongly"
Roberts: "I have enjoyed every moment of my career with DS Smith"

DS Smith’s Miles Roberts has informed the company of his intention to retire from the board and his role as CEO.

Following 13 years with the London-headquartered firm, the company said in a notice today that it was intended that Roberts’ formal notice period would start on 1 December 2024, which means that he would retire from the board and step down as CEO no later than 30 November 2025.

The company said this would give it an appropriate amount of time to identify and appoint his successor.

A thorough recruitment process will be conducted, and Roberts will remain as a director of the company and CEO throughout and will continue to focus on delivering strong performance from the group and on supporting an orderly transition to his successor.

Geoff Drabble, chair of the company, said: “There will be plenty of time to thank Miles properly when he leaves, but he has served the company exceptionally over the last 13 years and has transformed the group into what it is today. He will be much missed by both the board and his colleagues within the wider business.”

Roberts added: “I have enjoyed every moment of my career with DS Smith, and it has been a pleasure to work with my colleagues and the company’s customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.

“After 13 years this seemed like the appropriate time to make this announcement, so that a proper succession and orderly handover process can take place. In the meantime, I remain fully focused on continuing to develop and strengthen our business and leadership in the circular economy.”

Further announcements regarding Roberts’ leaving date and the appointment of his successor will be made “in due course”, said the business, which also released its half-year results for 2023/24 this morning (7 December).

In the results for the six-month period ended 31 October 2023, the business saw its pre-tax profit drop by 15%, to £268m, also down 15% by constant currency conditions.

Its revenue of £3.51bn was down by 18%, also down by 18% under constant currency conditions.

The business also experienced a decline in like-for-like box volumes of 4.7% in H1, albeit with sequential quarter-on-quarter improvement and H2 expected to show continued positive momentum.

Roberts commented: “I am pleased with the performance for the first half of the year. Our focus on value-added packaging solutions to predominantly FMCG customers, together with the benefit from our self-help productivity initiatives and flexible supply chain has driven a robust profit performance.

“Our Q2 volume performance was improved versus Q1 and we expect this trend to continue with H2 volumes stronger than H1, sequentially and on a like-for-like basis, as we continue to win market share.

“While we anticipate markets to remain challenging, we remain focused on our customers and our costs and expect to deliver full-year results in line with management expectations.

“Looking forward we remain confident in our business model and our capital and operational investment programmes which drive innovation, growth, improving productivity and environmental efficiency.”

The board also announced an interim dividend for this year of 6p per share, maintaining its level from last year despite the reduction in profits. It said this reflected its “robust financial position and confidence in the future performance and opportunities for the business”.

DS Smith’s share price fell by around 2.3% in early trading this morning but has as of 1pm had risen above where it was at yesterday’s close by 2.6%, to 308.2p.